Nine new faces will be inducted into the Council of Ministers later today in a major cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at around 10.30 AM before he leaves for the BRICS summit.
Of the nine new faces, three are from the states, where elections are due next year. They are all BJP MPs, Virendra Kumar (Madhya Pradesh), Anant Kumar Hegde (Karnataka) and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Rajasthan).
Other new faces include former IAS officer Alphons Kannanthanam from Kerala, BJP MPs Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Bihar), Shiv Pratap Shukla (Uttar Pradesh), former Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh (Bihar), former diplomat Hardeep Puri and ex-Mumbai police chief Satyapal Singh, PTI reported.
Kannanthanam, sources said is Modi’s personal pick and his inclusion is reportedly a part of the BJP’s overall plans to expand its base in Kerala. Kannanthanam and Puri are both not members of parliament. There’s not a single woman face in the new list of likely ministers.
It’s not clear if any of these nine new faces will find a cabinet berth.
PTI report further added that Modi had chosen the new faces keeping their proven administrative skills in mind. While he has picked people with proven administrative and professional expertise such as Puri, Satyapal Singh (61), R K Singh (64) and Kannanthanam, he has also chosen lingayat leader Hegde from Karnataka and farmer leaders Shekhawat and Kumar from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Lingayat community is one of the dominant communities of Karnataka which has influenced poll outcomes in several Assembly segments.
There are indications that some of the junior ministers including Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan may be elevated to Cabinet rank.
As government sources disclosed the names, a surprise factor was the absence of members of BJP’s allies like JD(U) and Shiv Sena from the list.
Though top BJP leaders maintained silence on the development, sources in the party said it was likely due to lack of a formula for representation which could satisfy all allies.
Paving way for the rejig, Union ministers — Kalraj Mishra, Bandaru Dattatreya, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjiv Kumar Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahendra Nath Pandey — had resigned two days ago.
Uma Bharti, too, had offered to resign, but her fate hangs in balance amid speculation that there may be a few more exits.
There was speculation over the likely choice for the post of the defence minister, and names of Suresh Prabhu and Nitin Gadkari were doing the rounds.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is at present holding the additional charge of defence and he has already given indication of relieving the charge.